I've been in the Midwest all week - dealing with the whole gamut of emotions from the whole crazy collection of family members. You'd think that death would be sort of a final thing and that things would be sort of 1-D: you grieve, you move on. But it turns out that today felt like I was chasing a constantly moving target while the ground underneath my feet felt like quicksand. My family has elevated bickering over the antiques to the level of grand opera. While sparing you all the horrific details, my mom and her siblings have decided to honor my grandmother's death with a drag-down knock-out legal and emotional fight over her inheritance. My mom and her sister, in particular, have always had a dysfunctional relationship...but this is particularly painful to behold (and be dragged into). Because of my family history, I am completely conflict averse, to the point of paralysis. By late this afternoon, I had horrible abdominable pains that were entirely psychological in origin, because when I curled up in a ball and hid in the rental car, they eased up. After returning to reality they came back. Finally I couldn't take it any longer and my wonderful wonderful husband helped me escape the city. I feel awful though leaving my brother "holding the bag"--having to take care of my mom for the next few days, when he has even more pressures in his life than I do right now.
It was hard going to Gram's house and realizing that I no longer had any reason to go through that neighborhood, one that I have known my entire life. And when I first arrived at Gram's house, it was "the way it should be" - the way it is in innumerable memories of my childhood. But by the time I escaped this afternoon, the pillaging had already begun and I felt like Gram's dignity was being desecrated by the desperate materialism (albeit emotionally-driven materialism) of the generation above me. I don't ever want to be in that house again. I want to leave my memories of Gram's house untarnished.
So I escaped to my in-laws. As we drove out into the prairie, with the familiar cornfields and dotted with lakes, I felt the tension starting to rise from me. And this evening, at my in-laws, I even managed to get in a few good comebacks. It's nice to be here with this nuclear family who are rejoicing at having their eldest son home again, if only for a few days. I know they have their own problems, but they are not currently in crisis, and for me that's comfort enough for now.
As I made the decision to escape to my husband's family rather than to keep bearing the cross of my family's dramas, I felt like I was taking another step in securing/bonding my husband and I together as the most important family unit. Not that I no longer have need of my mom and brother, but that I have another, separate but equal family now with Husband.
One last parting thought, from the blue collar sage at Gram's funeral: "Be kind. Every person is fighting their own battle."
I need to remember that.